They say nothing can fully prepare you for parenthood. From my experience, that was certainly the case. It wasn’t until I survived labor and delivery and was cradling my first babe that I started to get it. I felt like I had officially been initiated into the mommy club, joining millions of women who had gone before me. It was the most amazing feeling in the world, but it was also one of the most overwhelming.
That gorgeous baby boy, with a name that we gave him, was ours. OURS! The minute he came out of my womb, he was completely dependent upon us for everything. We would actually be taking him home to live with us permanently. Life was no longer only about us, but every decision we’d make would affect him as well.
Those decisions are endless, starting right from the very beginning. Should I breastfeed or formula feed? Send him to the nursery or keep him in our hospital room? Sleep train or go with the flow? Co-sleep or crib? Pacifier or no pacifier? Swaddle or no swaddle? Go back to work or stay at home?
It's complete overload and so much to process when you're dealing with all those postpartum hormones and emotions. Your world truly changes overnight. You can read and plan as much as you want, but the truth is you don't know how you really want to do things until you start living out your new reality.
When I think back to those early firstborn moments things flood back into my memory. I loved my hospital stay. Going to a U.S. maternity ward these days, or a "family birthing center" as many are now referred to, is practically like spending a couple days at a spa. After you get through the hard stuff, you're just pampered for the next couple days! I LOVED everything about it and was in no rush to get out of there.
But then the time comes, and they discharge you. You excitedly dress your tiny human in the adorable going home outfit you've been imagining him wearing for months.You carefully and somewhat awkwardly place your babe in the car seat and take the giddy going home picture, so overjoyed to start your life as a family.
Then you get in the car, and you realize that you are taking this baby to YOUR HOUSE. How in the world did they put the stamp of approval on this? And it hits you. You have no idea what you're doing.
But somehow you pull it together, welcome your baby inside your home, and start unpacking everything from the hospital. The busyness of it all distracts you for a while. That along with staring and thinking about how cute your baby is for about 98% of the day. Your precious miracle, now living and breathing in the great big world.
That first night is rough. At least it was for me. You're on your own, figuring out night feedings, how to swaddle, and if you're anything like me you didn't sleep a wink because you're too busy checking that he's still breathing for the 176th time. But you make it through, and the sun rises in the morning, its rays more beautiful than you've ever seen as they offer hope of a new day and new life.
The next few weeks continue to be full of new experiences, trusting your motherly instincts and figuring out what makes you the best mom you can be. This is where it can start to get a little tricky. You start to realize that your personality plays a big role in how you take care of your baby. Just as your baby was created uniquely, each of us moms were also created uniquely. We were given our specific babies for a reason, and even though we're new at this whole mom thing, we have an innate ability to feel and know what's right for our family and kids.
It can get tricky here because at this point, you've probably been influenced by a variety of people who are near and dear to you, and maybe some who aren't. Some of the things they do and advice they give make a lot of sense to you, and some of it doesn't. It doesn't mean one of you is right and the other wrong. It just means that each of us resonates with a specific parenting style because of who we are, and who our kids are.
As moms, we want so badly to do the best job possible, and in our desire to do so, it can be easy to think that our way is the best way. I don't think it's necessarily because we think those other moms are bad moms, but I think it's because how they do it seems so foreign to us simply because we absolutely cannot imagine it working for us.
But that's the beauty of motherhood and individuality, isn't it? What would stress one mom out, makes another one feel closer than ever to her child. The point is, each mom is uniquely equipped to love her kids in a way that no one else can.
For those of us who are already moms, we have an opportunity to be involved in a major paradigm shift when it comes to how we interact with new moms and moms-to-be.
Instead of acting like we know it all, let's come alongside our sisters, daughters, and friends in their new journey and offer nothing but encouragement. Let's not have one of our first questions be, "So, are you nursing??" They might not do things the way you did. They might not want to follow a schedule or use disposable diapers. They might not want to co-sleep and follow the attachment parenting movement. They might not want to read BabyWise. Also, unless it's positive, it's really not necessary to suggest that you know more by saying, "Just wait until you get to this stage..." Let them discover each season for themselves and form their own opinions about it!
I'd like to propose that we can be encouraging and offer our support without giving new moms unsolicited advice. Let's shower them with praise and tell them what a good job they're doing. Let's lend a listening ear and let them cry on our shoulder.
Let's be available and let them know that if they ever want to hear our thoughts we'd love to share our experiences, but leave it at that. If they want our advice, they'll let us know.
For those of you who are new moms or moms-to-be...
You are starting on the most incredible journey you've ever been on. You might be overwhelmed right now trying to figure everything out. That doesn't make you inadequate. It makes you normal. We've likely been there, feeling tinges of worry during our pregnancies and insecurities during those hazy newborn days.
You are joining a world-wide community of moms who are cheering for you. We're here for you, thinking about you, and want nothing but a smooth transition for you.
We know you have incredible motherly instincts and you know what's best for your sweet babe. But if and when those times come when you wonder what's worked for us, we'd love for you to ask. We want to help and support you in any way we can. We don't have all the answers, but we'd love to walk alongside you in your journey.
They say nothing can fully prepare you for parenthood, and what a beautiful thing that is. Experiencing every precious moment firsthand is far more amazing than any book could describe.
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